Doctors’ unions have paused their strike in France after the health minister agreed to reopen negotiations on the subject of higher consultation fees.
Six unions - representing GPs and specialists - suspended their strike this week having started action on October 13.
It comes after Health Minister Aurélien Rousseau wrote a ‘letter of intent’ on Tuesday, October 17, to the director of the Assurance maladie, Thomas Fatôme. Mr Rousseau explained that he was prepared to reopen negotiations with the unions.
In a joint statement, the unions said: “In this spirit [the letter] reopens the horizon on support, and making independent [medical] practice more attractive.”
Will consultation fees rise now?
The unions had been on strike mainly to call for higher consultation fees. Currently, these are €25 per visit for a GP (and are set to increase to €26.50) but some specialists say they need to rise as high as €50 per visit to make the system economically viable.
The unions have repeatedly mounted strikes due to a lack of satisfaction with the government's offers to increase fees. Previously, they have said that the government’s plan to increase the fee from €25 to €26.50 for GPs (and to €31.50 for specialists) is not enough.
The government may, therefore, be forced to increase fees significantly to reach an agreement with the unions - but this is only speculation for now.
The first meetings between the unions and the Caisse nationale de l’Assurance maladie (Cnam) are now set to begin next week. No agreement or proposed new fee has yet been confirmed.
Strike ‘suspended’ only
The union statement said that the strike is only ‘suspended’, and that the movement could resume at any time. This is because the Senate is set to examine a controversial law on healthcare access - proposed by Seine-et-Marne MP Frédéric Valletoux - from October 24.
“We remain absolutely alert and so does our action,” said the union statement. “This [proposed law] is a veritable threat to independent practice and access to care.”
#Grève des médecins— MG FRANCE (@MG_France) October 17, 2023
L'intersyndicale réunissant la totalité des syndicats représentatifs des médecins libéraux, les syndicats de jeunes et futurs médecins, ainsi que l'association médecins pour demain, décide de suspendre le mouvement de grève,
tout en maintenant une vigilance... pic.twitter.com/NZzar6SwBY
The proposal is supported by the government and includes rules that would require GPs to set up their practice in ‘medical desert’ areas. However, proponents say that it would not infringe on GPs’ freedom to choose their base. This is disputed by the medical unions.